Photos by Andrew Chen
Wilwood Engineering, manufacturers of high-performance disc brake systems, started out in a 10 x 10 space in the corner of a friend’s shop in 1977. Founder William “Bill” Wood ran this one-man operation and got his big break when he convinced racing legend Richard Petty to equip Wilwood brakes on his stock car, inevitably launching the company onto the racing scene as a major player.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find Wilwood’s offices and manufacturing facility housed in a 150,000 sq ft building in Camarillo, California, where approximately 250 employees work together to produce some of the industry’s best braking systems.
Everything is designed and manufactured in-house, from CNC tools to testing equipment to fixtures that transport works in progress. If it doesn’t exist, their engineers will build it.
Raw materials arrive from an off-site foundry as forged basic shapes and begin the production process via one of 32 CNC machines on the main work floor. Starting with a forged aluminum piece is more expensive, but it’s worth the extra cost because it makes for stronger parts, faster production and less waste when compared to milling a piece of billet aluminum.
Even with the reduced waste, the facility still recycles about 30 tons of aluminum per year. That’s enough aluminum to create 570 small block engines or 2 million beer cans.
Production processes, like powder coating and anodizing, have been designed from the ground up, with Wilwood’s engineers creating custom tools and workflows to ensure their components can withstand the demands of the race track. A simple house-hold oven originally used to perfect the powder coating process can still be found on the production floor.
A state-of-the-art brake dyno helps the engineers design to the ever-increasing demands of professional race teams and OEMs. This machine provides every kind of temperature and wear indication imaginable and can simulate full races based on real-life track data.
Just around the corner is the original dyno from the ’80s. If it looks to you like a small block V8 mounted to a giant flywheel, that’s because it is. In addition to testing braking components, this dyno is also used to bed-in new brake pads and rotors. It’s a welcomed cost and time saving service for many race teams and helped to increase Wilwood’s early popularity.
Bill Wood got into the performance industry because he loves racing, and that still rings true through the company. The R&D department is hard at work building a ’66 Mustang to compete in this year’s Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge. The car is powered by a 2011 Coyote engine mated to a 6-speed transmission with a Strange Engineering 9″ rear end and full floating axle.
Of course, one race car is never enough. A Pontiac Fiero sits patiently awaiting… well, everything as it looks to compete in a few races in the ChumpCar World Series.
To learn more about Wilwood or to plan your next brake system upgrade, visit their official website at www.Wilwood.com